Profile

Vo An Don

Current Status: At risk

Photo of Vo An Don

Other Names: Võ An Đôn

Date of Birth: 1977

Gender: M

Ethnicity: Kinh

Occupation: Lawyer

Areas of Activism:

  • Rule of law
  • Freedom of expression
  • Human rights
  • Press

October 2023:

Human rights lawyer Vo An Don and his family were finally allowed to emigrate to the United States. Last year they were stopped by police right before they were about to board a plane for the United States and were told they could not leave the country for unspecified “national security reasons.” On his Facebook page, Don shared that he and his family had landed in the United States on Oct. 27 and that he felt sad that he was somehow used as a bargaining chip, saying “I’m not a commodity to be exchanged or given as a gift to some visiting dignitary [a reference to U.S. President Joe Biden who visited Vietnam in September].” The family will settle in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

September 2023:

Two activists are relocating to the United States under an agreement negotiated ahead of President Biden’s recent visit to Hanoi, U.S. officials told ReutersThe first one is Vo An Don, a human rights lawyer who “campaigned for accountability for police abuse.” Don and his family were stopped from leaving Vietnam last September 27 just as they were to board a flight to the U.S. The second person, whose name has not been released, is a Catholic from the Con Dau parish who was evicted from his home in 2018. Vietnam has also signed “a private agreement [with the U.S.] to make progress on religious freedom, non-governmental organization (NGO) operations in the country, prison conditions and labor laws,” said one official.

September 2022:

Prominent human rights lawyer Vo An Don and his family were stopped from boarding a flight to the United States just as they were about to board their flight to emigrate to the United States seeking political asylum. Don had been barred from practicing law for the past five years after he successfully defended families of victims who died in police custody. Don said he would now sue the government for violating his freedom of movement; his biggest concern now is whether his children will be allowed to return to school.

Details

Immediate Concerns

October 2023:

Human rights lawyer Vo An Don and his family were finally allowed to emigrate to the United States. Last year they were stopped by police right before they were about to board a plane for the United States and were told they could not leave the country for unspecified “national security reasons.” On his Facebook page, Don shared that he and his family had landed in the United States on Oct. 27 and that he felt sad that he was somehow used as a bargaining chip, saying “I’m not a commodity to be exchanged or given as a gift to some visiting dignitary [a reference to U.S. President Joe Biden who visited Vietnam in September].” The family will settle in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

September 2023:

Two activists are relocating to the United States under an agreement negotiated ahead of President Biden’s recent visit to Hanoi, U.S. officials told ReutersThe first one is Vo An Don, a human rights lawyer who “campaigned for accountability for police abuse.” Don and his family were stopped from leaving Vietnam last September 27 just as they were to board a flight to the U.S. The second person, whose name has not been released, is a Catholic from the Con Dau parish who was evicted from his home in 2018. Vietnam has also signed “a private agreement [with the U.S.] to make progress on religious freedom, non-governmental organization (NGO) operations in the country, prison conditions and labor laws,” said one official.

September 2022:

Prominent human rights lawyer Vo An Don and his family were stopped from boarding a flight to the United States just as they were about to board their flight to emigrate to the United States seeking political asylum. Don had been barred from practicing law for the past five years after he successfully defended families of victims who died in police custody. Don said he would now sue the government for violating his freedom of movement; his biggest concern now is whether his children will be allowed to return to school.

Background

He is from Phu Yen province.

Profile photo source: Protect Lawyers

History of Activism

Vo An Don is a lawyer who has defended political prisoners and victims of injustice. Due to his activism, he has often faced harassment and attempts to disbar him. In 2016, he was awarded the Human Rights Prize from the Vietnam Human Rights Network. Read more about his history as a the “farmer lawyer” and his long legal battle for his right to practice law, here.

November, 2017: disbarred by professional organization and judiciary

Dismissal
November, 2017 - April, 2019
  • Public institutions
  • Judiciary
  • Ministry of Justice
Bar Federation of Phu Yen province, Nguyen Hue street, Tuy Hoa, Phu Yen province (map)

  • freedom of expression
  • equal protection of the law
  • freedom from discrimination

The Vietnam Bar Association upheld the decision of a local organization to take away Vo An Don’s license to practice law, despite a petition from over 100 lawyers asking the Bar Association to protect its members’ freedom of expression. Don had appealed to the November 2017 decision from the Bar Federation of Phu Yen province to the national level after he received a notice disbarring him just days before he was set to appeal Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh‘s (Me Nam’s) 10-year sentence. Don believes he has been targeted for his work defending Quynh and others in political cases, but he says he will continue his work.

Don later appealed the decision to the Ministry of Justice. On November 24, 2018, Don received a reply to his complaint from the Ministry of Justice which upheld the decision to “disbar his name from the Bar Association” signed by Deputy Minister Phan Chi Hieu on November 11, 2018.

In December 2018, Don filed a lawsuit against the decision on the disbarment from the Ministry. However, a lower court, and then the People’s High Court in Danang upheld the Ministry’s decision in April 2019, officially and permanently disbarring Vo An Don.

September 27, 2022: barred from leaving the country to emigrate to the US

Travel restriction
September 27, 2022
Public security
Tan Son Nhat International Airport (map)

  • freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention
  • liberty and security of the person
  • freedom of movement
Human Rights Watch

Former prominent human rights lawyer Vo An Don and his family were stopped just as they were about to board their flight to emigrate to the United States, seeking political asylum. The order game from Phu Ven Provincial Police. The airport officers told him that the family could not leave for “security reasons” in accordance with Article 36 of the Law on Entry and Exit for Vietnamese citizens. They provided no further details and said he would have to seek those from immigration authorities back home in Phu Yen Province.

Don had been barred from practicing law for the past five years after he successfully defended families of victims who died in police custody. He has not been politically active since. Don said he would sue the government for violating his freedom of movement; his biggest concern was whether his children would be allowed to return to school and having to buy household items that the family had given away ahead of their trip.

Profile last updated: 2024-06-13 20:34:05

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